32nd World Conference of the
International Society for Music Education Glasgow, UK 24-29 July 2016

Conference report compiled for NAMHE committee by Zaina Shihabi

PhD researcher, NAMHE Student representative

This year the 32nd World Conference for the International Society for Music Education was held in Glasgow from 24th to 29th July. Registration began on the afternoon of the 24th at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, followed by a reception hosted by the Glasgow City Council and the opening ceremony.

The Opening Ceremony

The Royal Conservatoire Braw Brass was joined by three of the Conservatoire’s partner companies. Considered leaders in music education in Scotland, Drake Music Scotland, the National Youth Choir of Scotland National Girls Choir, and Scottish Opera Connect Company joined together to create a most memorable event.

Monday 25th July

Registration continued for delegates in the morning, followed by the first cluster of parallel sessions. The first plenary of the conference was introduced by Michael Elliot, Chief Executive of ABRSM, who discussed new forms assessment, digital music education resources, and how ABRSM is planning to make music education more accessible to both students and parents this year. The plenary itself was delivered by none other than the incredible Dame Evelyn Glennie, who successfully engaged every member of the audience and spread smiles across the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. After a wonderful opening performance, Dame Evelyn described her first experiences with musical education, describing her first encounter with a drum, and how her teacher had encouraged her to find the music within herself rather than follow his specific instruction. This type of ownership of her own education encouraged her to discover new techniques of playing her instrument by observation. She then invited members of the audience with her on stage and engaged with them personally and with the rest of the audience. Dame Evelyn is described as the ‘first person in history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist’ (ISME2016 Conference programme, p12).

During the lunch break, posters were featured on the first floor foyer of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, meanwhile, delegates enjoyed a variety of lunchtime concerts.

After lunch, a featured session took place: Focus on Scotland, A Fiddler and Poet: Songs of Robert Burns, after which the parallel sessions continued in both the Conservatoire and the Royal Concert Hall.

The evening headline concert, held in the main auditorium of the Concert Hall was entitled the ‘IT Project’ concert with Patrick Doyle. A classically trained composer, Patrick Doyle, has been commissioned to score over 50 international feature films, including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Brave, Carlito’s Way, and numerous others. The concert, which was a screening of the 1927 silent film IT with live orchestra, was an incredible experience for audience members. The music was not only memorable and engaging, the performance by young musicians from North and South Lanarkshire schools and members of the Junior Royal Conservatoire was inspiring.

After the evening concert, delegates were invited to attend The National Piping Centre for an unforgettable folk dancing experience.

Tuesday 26th July

The morning began with a Constitution, Bylaws and Policy Review Committee open session for committee members who wish to be informed and involved in the discussion and review of the committee’s structure, decisions and future plans.

There appeared to be a running theme of advocacy and policy throughout the conference, and through some of the sessions that I attended personally, I felt there was a hunger and a need to get involved; from educators to policymakers, musicians and students, many seemed excited to discuss the potential of music education advocacy and how to get involved in the decision-making process. An example of someone who spoke passionately about advocacy is Dame Evelyn Glennie, who discussed her own education and her role as an advocate of individualised, personalised, and inclusive musical education.

After the session, registration continued as usual, followed by parallel sessions held in both the Conservatoire and the Concert Hall.

Darren Henley OBE, the Chief Executive of Arts Council England, presented the second plenary of the conference. He discussed the ‘importance of shared culture’ in music education, which is ‘enlightening, inclusive, facilitates equality of access to education and knowledge, and awakens empathy’ (Henley, as quoted in Shihabi, 2016).

After the plenary, the National Meetings took place, where representatives from countries all over the world were assigned rooms to discuss national or regional business.

Posters and lunchtime concerts continued during lunch, followed by a talk about study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The featured session afterwards was entitled ‘The Irish in Scotland: The Tannahil Songs’.

The sessions, talks, workshops and symposia continued in the afternoon, including the NAMHE panel discussion ‘Mapping Trends and Framing Issues in Higher Music Education: Changing Minds/Challenging Practices’. The panel presenters were Dr Helen Julia Minors of Kingston University, London, who spoke about ‘Changing Perceptions and Changing Disciplinary Boundaries’, Dr Charles Wiffen, Bath Spa University, who spoke about ‘Digital Pedagogies and Learning’, Professor Pamela Burnard, University of Cambridge, who spoke about ‘Diversifying Creativities in Higher Education Practice’, and Zaina Shihabi, Liverpool Hope University, who spoke about ‘The Potential of an Integrated Student Experience’.

At NAMHE, one of our most prominent commitments to the community is our passion and continued support for advocacy. Our involvement with ISME 2016 not only allowed for a collaborative and varied panel discussion on an international level with delegates from all over the world, but also gave us the opportunity to learn what else was going on in Higher Education in terms of advocacy and educator responses to policy.

*The NAMHE panel discussion has been accepted for publication in a special forthcoming issue of the London Review of Education Journal.

Meanwhile, NAMHE’s Dr J Simon van der Walt, of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, delivered a session on ‘Playing Gamelan’ in a Community Music Activity session, and conducted a workshop entitled ‘Steadily-stop! – a framework for musicing’.

The headline concert for this evening was performed by the Palestine Youth Orchestra, who played beautifully, impressing the audience and receiving not one, but two standing ovations after playing an encore number at the audience’s request.

Following the evening concert, delegates were once again invited to dance the night away with folk dancing at The National Piping Centre.

Wednesday 27th July

Registration continued with demos and workshops starting off the day at 9 am. The third plenary, presented by three time Grammy nominated, two time Brit nominated, and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016 singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading, MBE, was entitled ‘My Career so Far’. A wonderful speaker, Armatrading engaged delegates and fans with her genuine and laid back approach, discussing her family’s journey from the West Indies to Birmingham, her music career as it began and flourished, and meeting Nelson Mandela and performing for him.

Posters and lunchtime concerts continued after the plenary, leading to another session on studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, a featured session on ‘Hamish Henderson: a 20th Century Burns’, and further forums, symposia and workshops.

This evening’s first headline concert featured the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland conducted by James Lowe, and explored ‘dance in orchestral form’ (ISME2016 Performance Programme, p37), performing pieces by Richard Wagner, John Maxwell Geddes, John Adams and Alexander Glazunov.

The second headline concert featured two pop ensembles: The ICMP Summer Collaboration is a ‘ten-day intensive in London which takes place at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance,’ led by Richard Smith of the University of Southern California (ISME2016 Performance Programme, p39).

The second ensemble featured at the headline pop concert was the USC Thornton Popular Music Ensemble, from the Popular Music Program at the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, California (ISME2016 Performance Programme, p39).

Thursday 28th July

The day began with the ISME General Assembly at 8:30am, followed by the 4th plenary delivered by Composer Randy Weston, winner of a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship for Music Composition, and who has released ‘more than sixty recordings since 1955, many featuring his African Rhythms ensemble’ (ISME2016 Conference Programme, p13).

After lunch, which once again featured posters and various lunchtime concerts, demos, workshops, and forums continued into the afternoon and early evening. NAMHE’s Professor Pamela Burnard delivered a talk on ‘New Digital Learning Pathways from Live Coding Music Using Sonic Pi’, where she discussed the use of Sonic Pi and live coding as an ‘emerging art form’, that ‘young students are already finding highly engaging and culturally relevant’. Professor Burnard and her colleague discussed how to potentially integrate this formally into the curriculum (ISME2016 Abstracts, p290).

The first evening headline concert featured Grammy wining guitarist, solo performer and composer Laurence Juber, who’s first international recognition came as the lead guitarist of Paul McCartney’s Band, Wings (ISME2016 Performance Programme, p49).

Following the first headline concert of the evening, delegates enjoyed three jazz concerts featuring Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra from Scotland, Monika Herzig with Ann Patterson from Sweden and Scotland, and Caleb Chapman’s Super Band from the United States.

Friday 29th July

The final day of ISME 2016 began with demos and workshops at 9am, and continued with a variety of symposia, spoken papers, and other presentations by delegates.

The closing ceremony took place at 4:30pm that evening and was hosted by Turkey. The event featured performances by Anatolian Sun ad the Turksoy Youth Chamber Orchestra, and invited delegates to ISME 2018, which will be hosted in the region.


I would like to thank the NAMHE committee for their support and encouragement to attend and take part in the NAMHE panel at the ISME conference this year, an opportunity that has exceptionally enriched my student experience both in general and as part of the committee.

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